High-Frequency Trading During Flash Crashes: Walk of Fame or Hall of Shame?

We investigate the role of High Frequency Traders (HFTs) during flash crashes. By using a new methodology to identify flash crashes, defined as sudden and extreme price movements which occur in relatively short time and then reverts to the initial level, we identify 65 flash crashes episodes among 37 stocks that belong to the CAC40 traded in the NYSE-Euronext Paris market in 2013. We show that HFTs are responsible for initiating the crash in roughly 70% of the considered events, and that they strongly contribute to exacerbating the consequences of the crash, especially at his climax. In most of the cases, instead of providing liquidity, they start selling more as the crash develops. HFTs do not even contribute to recovery after the end of the crash, but they continue to initiate selling orders. This is worryingly true even for HFTs which agreed to provide liquidity under a market making agreement, especially if flash crashes occur simultaneously on several stocks. Among the HFTs, Investment Banks HFTs played the largest role and are those that are the most aggressive in selling during flash crashes.

Bellia Mario (Goethe University Frankfurt - Research Center SAFE)
Fattinger Felix (The University of Melbourne - Department of Finance)
Bellia Mario (Goethe University Frankfurt - Research Center SAFE); Christensen Kim (University of Aarhus - CREATES); Kolokolov Alexey (Goethe University Frankfurt - Research Center SAFE); Pelizzon Loriana (Goethe University Frankfurt - Faculty of Economics and Business Administration); Reno Roberto (Department of Economics, University of Verona)